Introduction: There is an urgent need to define the neurobiological and cognitive underpinnings of suicidal ideation and behavior in veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Separate studies implicate frontal white matter systems in the pathophysiology of TBI, suicidality, and impulsivity. We examined the relationship between the integrity of major frontal white matter (WM) systems on measures of impulsivity and suicidality in veterans with TBI.
Methods: Fifteen male veterans with TBI and 17 matched healthy controls (HC) received clinical ratings, measures of impulsivity and MRI scans on a 3T magnet. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) data for the genu and cingulum were analyzed using Freesurfer and FSL. Correlations were performed for fractional anisotropy (FA) (DTI) values and measures of suicidality and impulsivity for veterans with TBI.
Results: Significantly decreased in FA values in the left cingulum (P = 0.02), and left (P = 0.02) and total genu (P = 0.01) were observed in the TBI group relative to controls. Measures of impulsivity were significantly greater for the TBI group and total and right cingulum FA positively correlated with current suicidal ideation and measures of impulsivity (P <0.03).
Conclusion: These data demonstrate a significant reduction in FA in frontal WM tracts in veterans with mild TBI that was associated with both impulsivity and suicidality. These findings may reflect a neurobiological vulnerability to suicidal risk related to white matter microstructure.